Create Bubbles with the WordPress Block Editor – WP Tavern

I don’t know how I forgot LIQUID SPEECH BALLOON. The plugin is less than a month old, and I follow block-related projects religiously. This one slipped through the cracks, at least until I stumbled across it while looking for something else entirely.

It is also relatively popular for a one-piece plugin. There aren’t many with over 10,000 active installs. I had to know what he was doing to draw such a crowd.

In the comments on yesterday’s post about Automattic’s Livro theme, Nick Hamze wanted to know where all the fun theme designs are. Maybe it was a serendipitous moment that I also happened to be playing around with a plugin that might do the trick. Sure, it’s not a theme, but it can certainly be used to spruce up an otherwise boring or simple design.

So, I threw some Speech Balloon blocks and had fun creating a conversation with cartoon animals:

Inserting and customizing multiple Speech Balloon blocks.

I tend to lean towards clean and open themes because they allow me to add all the fun stuff through the post content. That’s why I love finding plugins like LIQUID SPEECH BALLOON. They add that visual touch to pages that can sometimes be boring.

Using the plugin’s Speech Balloon block is simple. It presents users with a single section to insert rich text content.

A speech bubble with a default user avatar and placeholder text, "Word," in the WordPress block editor.
Bubble block by default.

In the blocking options sidebar, users can choose an avatar. They can also make several design adjustments, including background and text colors.

The block, however, is slightly behind its time. Since the plugin’s release almost three years ago, WordPress has added several new design components that could be used to further enhance its block, such as padding, border, and typography controls.

The plugin can also be used for testimonials or other types of reviews. It works well enough for more user-friendly layouts if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.

Two columns of testimonials.  Both display a user avatar on the left and a text review in the box to their right.
Create testimonials with the Speech Balloon block.

The plugin’s biggest failing is how it handles avatars. This is also why it is not the best option for testimonials. Users cannot add avatars directly through the block. Instead, they have to register them through an entirely separate admin screen. Then they can choose from their list of saved avatars in the block.

Under the Settings > LIQUID SPEECH BALLOON page, the plugin presents users with several rows of fields. They can add a name and an image URL for each avatar.

10 rows of input fields in a settings form.  Each row has a Name field and an Image URL field.
Plugin avatar settings.

This is where the user experience breaks down a bit. There is no way to upload avatars on this screen. Instead, users should upload them through their media library, copy the URL, and paste it into the Image URL field.

The plugin provides the necessary documentation and links to follow this process. The overall experience is just plain lackluster.

However, if users only need a limited number of avatars, the system works quite well once everything is downloaded. Images are always available whenever you insert the Speech Bubble block – no need to search the media library or download a new one.

Not sure if this will fit in my plugin toolbox. Apart from a few stylistic elements, such as the tail of the bubble, users can easily recreate something similar with a few blocks, as shown in the following screenshot:

Two bubbles.  The first has a Panda next to it.  The text reads, "Good morning, how are you doing?"  The second has a zebra and the same text.
Custom speech bubble pattern.

Within minutes, I created this with what’s already available in WordPress core, and actually had several other design choices while doing it. I could see keeping a block template on hand for such a layout in the future.

For those who want a quick and easy solution without all the hassle of mixing and matching blocks, LIQUID SPEECH BALLOON would be the best option.

Esther L. Gunn